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White House: US may confront ships near North Korea

In addition to UN sanctions, the US also wants to inspect ships believed to be carrying contraband to North Korea.

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South Korean navy vessels patrol near Yeonpyong Island, west of mainland South Korea Friday, May 29. South Korean and US troops raised their alert a day earlier to the highest level since 2006 after North Korea renounced its peace treaty with the allied forces and threatened to strike any ships trying to intercept its vessels.

Ahn Jung-won/AP Photo/Yonhap

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The Obama administration says it is prepared to confront ships believed to be carrying contraband materials to North Korea but will not try to forcibly board them.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Friday that U.S. officials would seek permission to board and inspect such vessels in a bid to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions. She said the ships would be directed to a nearby port for inspection if they could not be boarded at sea.

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The U.N. Security Council on Friday punished North Korea for its second nuclear test by imposing tough new sanctions.

Rice said it would not be surprising if North Korea reacted to the sanctions with "further provocation."